G-Vegas, C-USA Title Town

Thursday's nationally televised ECU-Louisville game in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is a welcome oasis in an otherwise down year for Conference-USA.

C-USA's staff could not have done a better job in setting up an outright championship game, but fortunately they didn't have to. Both Louisville (9-1, 5-0) and East Carolina (6-3, 5-0) enter the game with unblemished conference marks. Additionally the Cardinals sport a number 19 national ranking. The winner is guaranteed no less than a tie for the C-USA crown.

The Cardinals are trying to secure their second consecutive C-USA title. The Pirates are trying to land their first. In its four years as a conference member ECU has finished no lower than second.

Louisville head coach John L. Smith unabashedly describes the game as huge. Says Smith, ''It's big for the conference and it's big for us. We've just told our guys that this is a special thing. How often do you get to play one game to decide a championship, much less on national TV when you're the only game in the country? What more can you ask for?''

Should Louisville win, the Cards are a virtual shoo-in for the Liberty Bowl and most likely a match-up with Brigham Young. By contrast, the Pirates probably need wins against both Louisville and Southern Mississippi to secure a trip to Memphis.

Hopefully, ECU fans will appreciate the significance of Thursday's game and come out in full support of the Pirates.


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